HILLSBORO, Ore. (KOIN) – When Bob Hermann began his career as a law clerk in 1973, a driver found guilty of violating a traffic law was subject to up to 10 days in county jail and a fine.
“A lot has changed over the years,” he tells KOIN 6 News as he prepares to retire.
While the penalties for traffic violations have certainly changed, there have been a lot of “constants” over his 42 years of being a prosecutor.
“Drugs and alcohol have always been a factor in a large number of our cases,” Hermann says.
Hermann was admitted into the Oregon State Bar on September 10, 1974 and was appointed as a Deputy District Attorney in Washington County in 1975. From 1982 to 1998, he served as the county’s Chief Deputy District Attorney, essentially the second in command.
Voters picked Hermann to serve as District Attorney in 1999, a position he’s held ever since. “It’s such a great job. It’s one of those ideal jobs,” Hermann says.
He has prosecuted more than two dozen murder or aggravated murder cases, including high profile killer Cesar Barone who died Christmas Eve 2009 in the Oregon State Penitentiary. Barone lived and worked in Washington County in the early 1990’s, sexually assaulting and killing women at a rate hard to imagine.
“His crimes were really distinct,” Hermann says.
The most notable Barone killing was that of Martha Bryant, who was a nurse and midwife. She was shot on Cornell Road and she headed home. “[He] shot her off the road, pulled her out of her car, she wasn’t dead, sexually assaulted her and then executed her and dumped her down the highway,” Hermann recalled.
As he prepares to leave the office, Hermann finds peace knowing there is someone ready and able to step up to run as the next district attorney for Washington County.
“Washington County is my home,” Kevin Barton, current Chief Deputy District Attorney says. “This is where my wife and I have chosen to live, to work and to raise our family.”
Hermann said there’s no clearer decision than to endorse Barton, who on Wednesday will formally announce his run for DA.
“It makes my decision so much easier in the sense that I could walk out the door today and things would be probably working better,” Hermann says with a smile. “It makes me very happy that we’re in this situation.”
Barton is a career prosecutor. He’s made a name for himself prosecuting some of the county’s most horrific child abuse cases.
“There’s no more vulnerable victim than a child, and there’s no more righteous crime to prosecute than someone who harms a child,” Barton tells KOIN 6 News.
Barton believes he has something to offer to the residents of Washington County and feels he can make a difference in guiding the office through criminal justice reforms being taken up at various different levels.
“The legislature will change the laws every session and it’s tempting to feel a sense of concern and or, ‘the sky is falling’ every time a new law passes, [or] every time the way we’ve been doing one thing changes,” Barton says. “At the end of the day, we are here in this office daily doing the work. We will prosecute the crimes. We’ll protect the victims. We’ll always seek justice no matter what the law is.”
Washington County’s population growth is certainly on Barton’s mind. He understands that it will bring in new issues.
“Well, bigger doesn’t necessarily mean that the same problems exist,” he says when asked about the potential of Washington County seeing similar problems that Multnomah County has, in terms of drug courts, increased recidivism and drug use and homelessness.
“The thing about Washington County now is that we are a safe county and that’s no accident that we are that way,” Barton says.
On the same day that KOIN 6 News sat down with Barton, Oregon’s Attorney General announced that her office, along with 40 other state AGs, are looking to determine whether manufacturers and distributors of prescription opioids have engaged in unlawful practices in the marketing, sales, and distribution of opioids.
Washington County is not immune to the opioid crisis the country faces.
“One of the most immediate challenges is the opioid epidemic and the increase in drug use, which has a corresponding increase in property crime,” according to Barton. “It’s an area that impacts everyone across the board. It doesn’t matter if you’re wealthy or not wealthy, if you’re a minority or not a minority, it’s a quality of life issue.”
Both Hermann and Barton have specialized in adult and child sexual assault cases and physical child abuse cases.
One of the cases Barton prosecuted resulted in a life sentence for someone who forced a girl to perform sex acts. Hermann says he’s seen a societal change when it comes to prosecuting child abuse cases throughout his 42 years of working within the DA’s Office
“It was incredible how many cases had been detected of child abuse…and had been handled through the church, through the family and through counseling,” Hermann said.
He also saw changes when it came to driving under the influence of intoxicants, which Hermann said “wasn’t treated that seriously until the late 70s when it became more of a focus, and people took seriously the damage and carnage that people could do to others in your vehicles.”
When Hermann leaves office, he plans to stay involved in the legal and criminal justice systems, somehow. He hasn’t quite figured out what the next step will be but he plans to remain active in Washington County’s efforts to grow its Family Justice Center.
Washington County voters will cast their ballots on May 15, 2018 during the primary election.